The Biden government, which is planning the possibility of Americans needing booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine, has agreed to purchase an additional 200 million doses from drug maker Moderna, with the option to include all anti-variant and pediatric doses.
The purchase, which shipments are expected to begin this fall and continue next year, gives the administration the flexibility to use booster shots if necessary and vaccinate children under 12 if the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccination for that age group at two Administrative officials who are not empowered to discuss it publicly.
Experts don’t know yet whether or when booster shots might be required. The emergence of variants in recent months has sped research on boosters, and current vaccines are believed to be effective against several variants, including the alpha variant, which was first identified in the UK and became dominant in the United States.
And this week, US health officials classified the Delta variant, first found in India, as a “worrying variant” and raised the alarm because it is spreading rapidly and can cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people. Concerns about Delta caused England to postpone lifting the pandemic restrictions.
Moderna, a company that had no products on the market until the FDA granted emergency approval for the Covid vaccine last year, uses mRNA platform technology to manufacture its vaccine – a so-called “plug and play” – Method that can be particularly adapted to the reformulation. Last month, the company announced preliminary data from a clinical trial of a booster vaccine matched to the beta variant first identified in South Africa; The study found an increased antibody response to beta and gamma, another worrying variant first identified in Brazil.
Announcing the purchase on Wednesday, Moderna said it is expected to ship 110 million of the new cans in the fourth quarter of this year and 90 million in the first quarter of 2022. The option brings all of Moderna’s US procurement of two-shot vaccine up to 500 million doses.
“We appreciate working with the US government on these extra doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, which could be used as a primary vaccination, including for children, or possibly as a booster dose if necessary to further defeat the pandemic . ”That said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna.
“We continue to focus on being proactive in the development of the virus, using the flexibility of our mRNA platform to stay one step ahead of emerging variants,” he said.
Under its existing contract with Moderna, the federal government had until Tuesday to exercise the option to purchase doses for future vaccination needs at the same price it currently pays – about $ 16.50 per dose. Similar discussions are ongoing with Pfizer-BioNTech, which also makes a two-dose mRNA vaccine, but no agreement was reached, one of the officials said.
The state health authorities are also preparing for the need for “re-vaccination,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and Maine’s chief health officer, told reporters on Wednesday.
“It may be a little early to be able to say definitively whether second doses or booster doses will be needed in the fall,” said Dr. Shah. “The better work we’re doing now certainly reduces the likelihood that variants could run free.”
He added, “There is a direct link between what we are doing now and what we may need to do later.”
According to the federal government, about 65 percent of US adults had received at least one injection by Wednesday. However, as vaccination rates slow, the government is still focused on meeting President Biden’s goal of getting at least 70 percent of adults vaccinated by July 4th, and also on addressing the global vaccine shortage.
“As the Delta variant in question grows and millions more Americans need to be vaccinated, we are focused on our urgent and robust response to the pandemic,” White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a statement Tuesday.
Last week, at the start of his meeting with the leaders of the Group of 7 Nations, Mr Biden announced that the United States would buy 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine and donate them to about 100 low and middle income countries for use the next Year, describing it as America’s “humanitarian obligation to save as many lives as possible.”
One of the officials said Wednesday that the government would donate these doses to other countries if the purchase of Moderna left the administration with excess vaccine.